Senate Democrats

Boxer, Reid Join 13 Colleagues In Praising Navy Decision To Name New Supply Ship After César Chávez

Senators Thank Secretary Mabus for Honoring the Labor and Civil Rights Leader in the Tradition of Naming Ships After American Pioneers and Visionaries

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) today joined 13 of their Senate colleagues in commending Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on his decision to name a new supply ship after labor and civil rights leader César Chávez, a Navy veteran who enlisted at age 17.

Secretary Mabus announced the decision today at an event in San Diego, where the T-AKE 14 ship is currently under construction. Mabus has explained that the naming of the César Chávez is part of a tradition of naming these Navy supply ships after pioneers, explorers and visionaries to “celebrate the dreams and bold action of the American spirit” and “honor men and women who have changed our country and the world for the better.”

In their letter, the Senators admonish critics of the Navy’s decision as demonstrating “a disappointing lack of knowledge of the standards and traditions that are such an important part of United States Navy history,” and point to the Navy’s rich tradition of naming other ships in the T-AKE class after pioneers and visionaries such as Native American explorer Sacagawea, aviator Amelia Earhart, Navy Master Diver Carl Brashear, astronaut Alan Shepard, explorers Lewis and Clark, and civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

In addition to Senators Boxer and Reid, the letter is signed by Senators Bennet (D-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Durbin (D-IL), Levin (D-MI), Merkley (D-OR), Menendez (D-NJ), Gillibrand (D-NY), Leahy (D-VT), Murray (D-WA), Reed (D-RI), Schumer (D-NY), Stabenow (D-MI) and Mark Udall (D-CO).

The full text of the Senators’ letter is below:

May 18, 2011

The Honorable Ray Mabus

Secretary of the Navy

Office of the Secretary of the Navy

United States Department of the Navy

The Pentagon, Room 4E686

Washington, DC 20350

Dear Secretary Mabus:

We write to express our strong support for the Navy’s recent decision to name its new T-AKE 14 supply ship after César Chávez. Mr. Chávez was a great labor and civil rights leader and a Navy veteran. As you have stated, this move continues the Navy’s tradition of naming these supply ships “for famous American pioneers, explorers, and visionaries.”

Those who have criticized the Navy’s decision to name this ship after César Chávez show a disappointing lack of knowledge of the standards and traditions that are such an important part of United States Navy history.

As you wrote in 2009, the ships in the T-AKE class are named to “celebrate the dreams and bold action of the American spirit and they honor men and women who have changed our country and the world for the better.” These ships have been named for Native American explorer Sacagawea, aviator Amelia Earhart, Navy Master Diver Carl Brashear, astronaut Alan Shepard, explorers Lewis and Clark, and civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

It is clear that César Chávez is a fitting namesake for this fourteenth and final ship. Any comments to the contrary reflect a total disregard for César Chávez, who deserves our respect and gratitude for the lifetime he spent promoting the fair treatment of workers and equal rights and justice for all Americans.

César Chávez enlisted in the Navy at age 17 and served for two years. He later went on to co-found the United Farm Workers, which has represented and improved working conditions for tens of thousands of agricultural workers across the country. Chávez’s dedication to securing better pay, safer working conditions, and dignity for American farm workers through nonviolent tactics led Senator Robert F. Kennedy to call him “one of the heroic figures of our time.”

Again, we commend your decision to name the T-AKE 14 in honor of César Chávez. Thank you for your leadership and attention to this issue.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer

United States Senator

Harry Reid

United States Senator

Carl Levin

United States Senator

Richard J. Durbin

United States Senator

Patrick J. Leahy

United States Senator

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

Robert Menendez

United States Senator

Jack Reed

United States Senator

Patty Murray

United States Senator

Sherrod Brown

United States Senator

Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senator

Debbie Stabenow

United States Senator

Michael F. Bennet

United States Senator

Jeff Merkley

United States Senator

Mark Udall

United States Senator

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